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PHOTO: State Assembly Republicans hold Education Forum into Common Core standards Tuesday night at Akron High School. Batavia's Steve Hawley is 2nd from left.

Parents are worried, teachers are angry, administrators are strapped and school districts are scrambling.

Representatives from all groups say it’s because of the state’s recently implemented Common Core Exams. Speaking to Western New York Assembly members in Akron Tuesday night, they expressed how the tests had negatively impacted their classroom, their life, or their child’s life.

Lorraine Gammack, a special education teacher at Batavia High School, made an impassioned 13-minute long speech describing how the education department’s strict testing affects her students who have severe disabilities. She used the word “ludicrous” to describe how her students are excessively tested when all she wants for many of them is to gain a measure of independence.

“In 2013-14 school year, a high school student – severely handicapped – will take 28 state assessments.”

Gammack held up two large spiral books near her head that contained information for creating assessments. She said they were handed out Sept. 30 and “we’re told the baseline assessments need to be done by mid-November….The testing window ends Feb. 7. So these students, who fall into a severe cognitive disability level have five months to show growth. My students have 28 exams to do in five months and have to show growth.”
Gammack says high school students who are not disabled have four years to take a dozen of those tests.

Mike Cornell – a leader with the Partnership for Smarter Schools and the Amherst Middle School Principal – laid out several in-depth solutions. One? A moratorium.

“A moratorium gives us time and space to have a public conversation about how to make sure that curriculum instruction and assessments supports the learning of every child,” Cornell said. “We didn’t have a conversation about implementing the Common Core. We didn’t have a conversation about how we should effectively evaluate teachers. It was handed to us in exchange for $700 million.”

Some parents voiced concern that the rigorous tests were affecting children’s mental well-being.

“Children are becoming defeated. Children are becoming depressed. Children are becoming more anxious. Children are losing their self-worth and children are being left behind,” a Lancaster mother who is also a nurse said. “These are the truths of the children that are overwhelmed by endless test prep and assessments.”

Here is some background on the Common Core exams which were adopted by the Empire State in 2010 and instituted in the 2012-13 school year ( State Education Commissioner John King called the less-than-stellar scores from the first year's tests a “baseline” for future years and said they would not count toward teacher evaluations.

Western New York Republican Assembly members on the panel included Corwin, Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia), Raymond Walter (R,C,I-Amherst), David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora). Two Education Committee members from Long Island (Ed Ra, and Al Graf) also attended.

There’s another panel meeting in Rochester this week.

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